Respectful Insolence

Not surprisingly, it comes from Ann Coulter:

Throw in enough words like imagine, perhaps, and might have — and you’ve got yourself a scientific theory! How about this: Imagine a giant raccoon passed gas and perhaps the resulting gas might have created the vast variety of life we see on Earth. And if you don’t accept the giant raccoon flatulence theory for the origin of life, you must be a fundamentalist Christian nut who believes the Earth is flat. That’s basically how the argument for evolution goes [emphasis in original].

Fortunately, Robert Savillo over at Media Matters has provided an excellent debunking of the creationist idiocy in Coulter’s book, beginning:

Coulter uses this “theory” that she has concocted throughout the book to suggest that Darwinian evolution is similarly questionable once one has all the facts. Coulter appears to be trying to develop a parody of evolution analogous to Bobby Henderson’s parody religion, the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster — created in response to the Kansas School Board’s decision to require the teaching of “intelligent design” as an “alternative” to the theory of evolution. Henderson’s Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster serves as an alternate version of “intelligent design” because of the obvious parallels. But while the satirists who created the Flying Spaghetti Monster use its similarities with intelligent design to comic effect, Coulter identified no comparable parallels between “flatulent raccoon theory” and the theory of evolution. Furthermore, Coulter’s analogy makes a mistake common to many creationists who confuse Darwinian evolution, the explanation of how different species develop, with theories about the origin of life.

(Read the whole thing.)

It’s the difference between light-hearted satire with a bite (the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster (which started as a quick parody of “intelligent design” creationism and seemed to take on a life of its own) and the most obvious and uncreative (not to mention tendentious) sarcasm, which is what passes for “humor” in Coulter’s writings. It’s like a six-year-old saying,”You say my story is like a Flying Spaghetti Monster? Well your story is like a farting raccoon! So there!”

That’s about the level of Ann’s analogy.

And what does William Dembski, that leading light among intelligent design creationism proponents who bragged about helping Ann Coulter with her book have to say about this analogy? This:

The problem with Ann’s “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” is, of course, Where did the raccoon come from? To be an adequate theory of life, we need to couple the “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” with a “Spontaneous Large-Cute-Furry Mammal Theory,” which explains how primordial matter spontaneously generates humungous raccoons whose gas attacks ultimately generate us. Provided the “Flatulent Raccoon Theory” is coupled with this more basic theory, we have an adequate comparison with conventional evolutionary theory. If I were to advise Ann again, I would have stressed the inclusion of such a complementary theory. We can thank Robert Savillo for highlighting this difficulty.

You know, I’m not sure that Dembski realizes it, but he really is parodying his own pseudoscientific hypothesis, intelligent design. (Who created the creator, namely the flatulent raccoon?) All he can come up with is a lame strawman about abiogenesis to support Coulter’s idiocy. Never mind that evolutionary theory doesn’t even really address abiogenesis. How life arose from nonlife is a separate scientific issue. Creationists like Dembski love to conflate the two (evolution and abiogenesis) all the time because the science supporting evolution is very strong, in contrast to the the science of abiogenesis, which is much less advanced and therefore more speculative–and therefore more easily attacked than evolution.

How can anyone take Dembski seriously anymore?

Comments

  1. #1 Ompus
    July 8, 2006

    1) Coulter is very intelligent and, apparently, sane. She graduated with honors from Cornell and received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School.
    2) The excerpt you cite is idiotic. No intelligent, sane person would believe it.
    3) Query: Why does an apparently sane, intelligent person make idiotic comment after idiotic comment?

    The point is, I think the intelligent commentators of this world would better spend there time understanding why Coulter is making statements she doesn’t believe. Is she a performance artist? Is she creating provocations for the sake of commercialist greed?

  2. #2 Dan S.
    July 8, 2006

    “. . . why Coulter is making statements she doesn’t believe.”

    Assuming she doesn’t in fact believe this (which seems strangely plausible), the answer, I would guess, is pretty simple:
    Because it can be used to beat liberals.

    Although amusingly, the giant racoon theory is probably the best analogy to her description of the theory of evolution. Perhaps it’s a cry for help?

    Nah.

    Thing is, at least with most creationists this is about their religious belief, however odd; deeply sincere, however misguided; often involving significant time and effort (if rarely spent finding any actual information out about the real, as opposed to straw, theory of evolution.

    Oh my. Ann Coulter’s worse.

  3. #3 Dan S.
    July 8, 2006

    Y’know, I was reading though the Media Matters debunking, and I just stopped dead at the term “Darwiniacs.”

    It just sounds so . . . sneery.

    Reminds me of a recent post I read, um, somewhere -can’t remember author, location or subject, of course (global warming? evolution? partisan politics?). Well, whatever it was, the writer was using as an analogy their own high school experience, involving an apparently quite bright classmate who was deeply concerned (and well-read) about, I think, the dangers of nuclear power. The other students, including the writer, had a marvelous time getting into debates with the hapless kid – without, of course, caring at all about the subject, bothering to inform themselves, or attempting to be in any way logical or coherent – for fun, just to watch him get upset and worked up (and of course, to emphasize the status hierarchy, and reassure themselves of their positions in it).

    Oh well. Anyway, I suppose they will need cheerleaders for the next time libraries start burning . . .

  4. #4 Koray
    July 8, 2006

    Ompus: what makes you think what Ann Coulter does has not been researched? Just pick up a popular psychology book about deceit or how the brain works, and you will see many examples of far more outrageous things done by smart and not so smart people.

  5. #5 Chris Hallquist
    July 8, 2006

    I haven’t taken Dembski seriously since he endorsed the thermodymanics argument. ( http://uncrediblehallq.blogspot.com/2006/03/skeptics-circle-up-as-is-dembskis.html )

  6. #6 robd
    July 8, 2006

    Actually, the Raccoon Flatulence Theory is a much better analogy for religious stories of origin than for evolution; no mechanism, no testable hytpotheses; you just have to believe it.

  7. #7 Orac
    July 8, 2006

    She graduated with honors from Cornell and received her J.D. from University of Michigan Law School.

    I had been unaware of her having sullied my alma mater (U. of M.) with her foul presence. In fact, doing a quick search, I see that she graduated from the University of Michigan Law School the very same year I graduated from the University of Michigan Medical School

    Ack. That means she was on the campus for at least a few years at the same time I was…

  8. #8 JamesR
    July 9, 2006

    Coulter’s ridiculous ideas are to say the least very creative and possibly she is trying out for “madhatter of the year”? She has my vote but only if she wins residency at a state hospital for the mentally deficient.

    I have been discussing another theory of evo (LOL) with another ahhh? Young man.

    “>>>>>>>>>Javier
    I will leave this site with a comment a chemistry professor made. It is simple but for this site it will speak volumes. Can 2 parrots mate and have a crow.

    This is the premise of evolution, like it or not. This is it. end”

    This is the blog where you can find such astute and creative ideas. Look for Javier. He’s a hoot and if any of you are from San Jose State Univ.CA So is he. Most of the good things he says are down toward the end.

    http://www.atheists.org/nogodblog/index.php/2006/07/02/in_facts_we_trust_1

  9. #9 Ompus
    July 9, 2006

    Koray:

    Of course what Ann Coulter does, deceit, has been researched. And we know people do it for many reasons. Ego, Fun, Profit, Power, etc.

    The question I ask is what motivates Coulter?

  10. #10 Ann Coulter
    July 9, 2006

    “Ack. That means she was on the campus for at least a few years at the same time I was…”

    Why, Orac! You mean you don’t remember our little [giggle] encounter?

  11. #11 C. Schuyler
    July 9, 2006

    Her stint at U. of M. Law School overlapped that of the ferociously leftwing (ferocious but rational) Brian Leiter. It must have been an interesting place!

  12. #12 Dan S.
    July 9, 2006

    “This is the blog where you can find such astute and creative ideas. Look for Javier.”

    Why, why did you link e to such painful imbecility?! I think I suffered brain damage just reading it (yet couldn’t stop, much like watching an accident in progress . . .)

    One of my favorite bits, besides the parts about evolution ‘means’ iguanas giving birth to chickens and a man growing wings because he needs to fly . . .

    ” Do you know what a higher authority is in science? It is when sceintists with less education like biologists take the word of scientist with more education like chemists. Lower scientists do not question the statement of higher scientists. They do not reasearch the information to see if what they have been told is right.”

    And he keeps on insisting on how chemists have more education and authority than biologists, who only know simple science, and that physicists beat both of them, despite people trying to explain. I can kinda guess what happened – that one of his professors touched on the relationship between the various fields and reductionism an’ such . . . but oh my . . .

    And this person is in college?

  13. #13 JamesR
    July 9, 2006

    DanS
    I’m sorry man I didn’t mean to assault you like that. I guess I should have placed a warning label on that. We have been having quite a good time with this guy though. I guess like playing with road kill when we were youngsters.

    I was merely trying to see if anyone from SJSU was available for comment. If that is what they are teaching there then the Ann Coulters WIN. We must be vigilant to this inane attack on science in gneral but mostly in our universities especially.

    You liked that Iguans bit though HUH. LOL

  14. #14 Orac
    July 9, 2006

    Why, Orac! You mean you don’t remember our little [giggle] encounter?

    You can’t be the real Ann Coulter for the simple reason that Coulter never giggles. She cackles.

  15. #15 richCares
    July 10, 2006

    Ann Coulter Review – 2 parts
    part 1: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/coulter1.cfm
    part 2: http://www.talkreason.org/articles/coulter2.cfm

    Are people that follow Coulter actually that stupid, or is it just they hate liberals.

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